No son? You're a failure!
Joseph Kelly, EB Blogger
Recently we had a great holiday on the Gold Coast. Returning home, we checked our luggage in at Coolangatta airport. The lady assisting us gave a few gruff demands for our tickets and terse instructions on how to load our bags onto the conveyor belt. She then obviously recalled a training video of customer interaction and decided to engage us in conversation.
"You've got three daughters?" she accused.
"Yes" I said. "We'll probably call it quits there" I added, just in case she wanted to launch into a lecture on over-population.
"Don't you want a son?" she countered.
To be honest I didn't quite know how to answer. Susie and I have had a lot of discussions about this. The fact is I would love to have a son, in the same way I would love to have a Porsche - it would be great but my life won't be any less fulfilling without it. I would also love another daughter. But I also know that after three caesareans and with mid-thirties giving way to late-thirties, another baby is just not an option.
As I floundered about trying to respond to Miss Tactful, Susie casually rested a hand on my shoulder and told me it was alright to admit I would like a son. I looked at Susie's face and felt utterly embarrassed and annoyed that we had been put in this position in the middle of a cavernous, non-descript airport lobby. Two minutes ago I was booking my luggage on a flight, now Susie and I are suddenly on Oprah's couch.
"I love my daughters" I finally answered. "And I had four sisters, so I'm pretty down with the whole 'girl' thing".
And this is all true. My daughters have been my biggest gift and I love everything about them. I enjoy rolling up my sleeves and helping Frances prepare cakes in the sandpit that she can sell from the window in her cubby house. I love the fact that Maisie is now teaching me every hand-clap and skipping rhyme that my sisters taught me years ago. I get a massive kick out of picking baby Rita’s outfit each morning and parading her to Maisie and Frances for their fashion assessment. And seeing the natural and effortless way in which my three girls play together constantly reminds me of the wonderful childhood I shared with my sisters, and I love that.
Catching our flight, and clutching my girls during take-off, I was able to put some perspective on my exchange with Miss Tactful. She wasn't to know the much discussed and debated issue of baby-number-four. "Couldn't you just see a little boy on his shoulders?" is a favourite question my mother likes to ask Susie. Susie, having used up all her restraint in not strangling my mum, would obviously rather not feel as though she has to defend what is a mutual decision to not have any more children. And I would rather not be made to feel that I was somehow missing out on my gendered birthright by not having a male son and heir.
So hopefully next time someone asks me if I want a son I’ll be composed enough to give them a direct and honest answer – that I can’t imagine any child giving me greater joy than the three I have.
Are all your children the same gender? Are you constantly asked if you want a son/ daughter? How do you respond? Comment on Joseph's blog.